Pono is pronounced [po-no].
Pono is a Hawaiian word with no direct or literal translation to English. It is a very meaningful term that simply and elegantly elucidates the need to live in balance with others and the natural world. It means to always make things right. To live with righteousness and care for those around you and the environment in which you live. Furthermore, pono is an action that is understood by Hawaiians as manifested within their lands, their spirit, and the environment around them. It is a “do right unto others” and when you truly do right, righteousness will manifest around you.
Pono has very strong cultural and spiritual connotations and it defines how many Hawaiians look at life. It calls for living in a state of harmony and balance with your ‘ohana, the ʻāina, and the natural world. There are few other cultures that practice what they preach as sincerely as the Hawaiians do, and pono is not just an abstract concept for them, it is a way of life.
In Hawai’i you make things pono when you want to make amends and set things right in any situation. There is a very often used practice for this called Hoʻoponopono. This practice gives a framework for restoring balance and harmony. There are four simple steps within it, Repentance (I’m Sorry), Forgiveness (Please Forgive Me), Gratitude (Thank You), and Love (I Love You) which can clear and bring balance in most any circumstance.
A quote from Kumu Kea, a Hawaiian Hula and spiritual teacher, demonstrates that to live pono is to take responsibility for oneself and to strive for a better world.
“Pono is a concept worth adopting in our own life. If each of us really aspired to be pono, if we accepted our implicit agreement to be a pono spiritual being and guardian of the earth’s resources, a pono daughter or son or spouse, friend, co-worker, employer, government servant — what a different world we could live in. I think it’s a concept worth working for.”
For Hawaiians, this value is practiced within, so one can become a better person throughout all their pilina (relationships). They practice the power of hoʻoponopono when they become overwhelmed with burdens of holding something in that is not right. In difficult times, their elders call on someone, usually a kahuna, to facilitate the session with forgiveness, and gratitude of asking to be forgiven.
Show your consideration of others through acts of kindness and consideration. Pono is one of those ways of being that naturally propagates itself through positivity. When you are kind, considerate, and treat others fairly it inspires others to do the same.
Have and express gratitude for those around you and the natural world that sustains you. Being on this earth is a gift we can take for granted, so it is good to remember to be grateful for the opportunities we are given to share, learn, and grow together.
Be responsible for what is yours to be responsible for. To be pono, we do not let another carry the weight of our burden, nor be the object of our projections. In general, most everyone is doing their best, and we should do our best to find balance and make things right in our world as much as we are able.
Take care in what you say to others and the intentions with which you speak. Speaking with awareness can help you avoid a misunderstanding. Speaking pono words and having thoughts will come naturally, when you speak with a pono heart. Hawaiians believe when you speak out loud the ʻāina and elements hear you. Further, they may support you, or otherwise, depending on how you speak.
Having kindness, gratitude, speaking with aloha, and taking responsibility for what is yours is a way we all must strive to live in these trying times. Hawaiians know pono will help manifest the health and well being of their papa honua, mother earth, and its people. The rest of us can look to this wisdom and do our best to embody it in our own lives.